Thursday, June 30, 2011

Book Club Thursday | Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours

We are currently reading through Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours by Dr. Kevin Leman.  All direct quotes taken from the book are in bold type.

Chapter 3 | Why Reward and Punishment Do Not Work

I remember the first principal at the academy I taught in for 10 years explaining to a parent that it really should not be a big deal that the child missed out on a particular honor award that year. He said that the student should not be studying merely for the reward he would get, but for the satisfaction of having done his best and for education's sake.  I did not understand at the time.  I thought that if we don't reward them, they aren't going to do what we expect of them.

And that was our wise principal's point.

In the first section of this chapter (another chapter that I am going to break up over a couple of weeks/posts), Dr. Leman gives a few examples and explanations as to why reward does not always work and should not always be used. 

In order for reward and punishment to be effective, the people receiving those rewards and punishments need to buy into the system......but the problem is the children are not buying the way they used to. 

Kids are smart!  They know when they are being bought, and they now live in a society that has taught them that they are equal in authority to adults.  In fact, rather than buying into the system, they are using the system to work in their favor.  They are more than willing to do whatever they are being asked to do because they are expecting a "payday" of sorts. When there is none, they wonder why they even bothered.


If reward and punishment no longer really work as effective disciplinary tools, what should take their place?  I believe we find the answer in Ephesians 6:4, TLB, which talks about "loving discipline." 

The answer to reward and punishment is loving discipline and encouragement. 

Have you ever seen a child light up because they were encouraged?  Or have you seen a child tell someone else that they are doing a good job?  That is the result of encouragement.  Brian and I see that everyday with Addie.  We use a lot of encouragement with her through out the day.  We are constantly telling her that she is doing a good job at this or a great job at that.  We want our words to become of value to her (which is also why we are very careful and protective about the words used in her direction by ourselves and others). 

In fact, just now (as I am typing at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon) Addie called me from her bed that she had to go potty.  I told her to come to the bathroom.  The stool we have still leaves her an inch or two short of the toilet, so she still needs helps being put up there.  While she was sitting, I told her how proud I was that she had called and not gone in her bed or pants (not that she does, but children should be praised whenever we find an opportunity).  She looked at me, beaming.  I got the toilet paper, which in our bathroom is on the wall behind the toilet (builder was not a woman!) and Addie took it from me.  She proceeded to take care of business herself and to pull her own underwear and pants up (all things I usually do for her). With each thing she did, I told her how proud I was and what a big girl she was.  Then she looked at me and, with all seriousness, said, "I have to go now.  My Flipper (the old tv series that she absolutely loves) is done and I have to go to bed."  And with that she walked away.

On other days, Addie might just come up to us and say, "Daddy/Mommy, you're doing a good job!", "Great job, Daddy/Mommy!", or "Thank you for working hard, Daddy!"  She has even begun encouraging Ian.  When he kicks (and can this boy kick!), she'll say, "Good job, Little Buddy! Kick Mommy again!"

There is a subtle distinction between reward and encouragement. A lot of that subtle distinction is in the attitude of the parent and the basic guidleines the parent is laying down in the family.

It is always a good idea to avoid associating a child's "goodness" with how well he does a certain task. If (a child has) done a poor job, that would not make him "bad."

This is hard because so many times I want to say, "Oh, Addie, you're such a good girl!" when she does what we ask and she does it well.  But like Dr. Leman says, a child's goodness and how well they complete a task are not one in the same.  It is also one reason I flat out refuse to allow anyone to tell her she is a bad girl (a slip up or a mistake does not equate a child with being bad) and why we refuse to allow her to call anyone else a bad boy/girl. 

What I am trying to get at here is that we must do everything we can to encourage our children and help them see they are not loved only when they perform correctly.  Our ultimate example is God Himself. 

As Josh McDowell points out in his book Givers, Takers, and Other Kinds of Lovers, loving your children if and when is not the answer.  McDowell observes that the only real way to love is to simply say, "I love you."  There are no ifs, or whens, or buts.  You simply communicate in every way you can to your child, "I love you." Our children need to know they are loved absolutely, regardless of how they perform in different areas of their lives.

Another hard time I have is wanting to tell her that I love her when she is obeying beautifully or blowing us away with her intelligence and charm.  We don't ever want her to fall into the trap of thinking that she is loved based on the good things that she does and that she is not loved when she makes a mistake.

Once rather recently, Addie was having a rough day.  After several warnings, she was sent to lie down for her three minute time out.  I don't know where the next comment from her came from because all I said was "Go lie down" as I put on the timer and we have never associated our love as a result of her being good.  Crying, she said, "My doggie (Taffy) doesn't love me anymore."  Okay! Time out is over!  I called her back to the kitchen where I was, sat on the floor, and held her.  I told her that I loved her no matter what she does, how many times she has to go in time out, and no matter what she says.  I told her that Jesus also loved her all of the time.  I also told her that if Taffy didn't love her, he couldn't stay.  Sudden;y, Taffy loved her again, and everything went back to normal.

We are always telling Addie that we love her. It is something that I learned from my own mother.  She was always telling us that she loved us.  She said it in words, in actions, in kind and thoughtful acts.  We knew that we could never do anything to lose Mom's love for us. There are days that I wish I could hear her say it just one more time. 

I want Addie to know the same thing.  She is loved just for being being born to me and Brian.  She is loved when her hair is not in perfect place (pretty much always).  She is loved when I don't understand what she is trying to say.  She is loved when she steps on my toes, hits my nose with her head while playing (oh, did that hurt!), decides to ask me a million and one questions when I am the most tired, decides that she wants to do things her way and not ours, has to be sent to time out, or has a meltdown because she is overtired.  She is always loved.  And I have told her that during each and every one of these situations (although with the nose incident, I had to wait until I wasn't seeing stars anymore and could actually talk).

Use encouragement that zeros in on your child's behavior.  As you respond positively to your child's behavior, he will feel unconditionally loved and approved.

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